Secular Kibbutz Welcomes Torah

Kibbutz Kalia, 37 years old, welcomed its first very own Torah scroll this week, celebrated together by Hassidim, bare-headed Jews and others.

Tags: Tanakh
Hillel Fendel , | updated: 12:52


37 years after it became a kibbutz, Kalia welcomed its first very own Torah scroll into its gates this week, celebrated together by Hassidim, bare-headed Jews and others (see below).

Kalia is a kibbutz overlooking the northwestern edge of the Dead Sea. Its name is actually an acronym for four Hebrew words meaning “the Sea of Death comes to life” (kam l’tychiya yam hamavet).  Its members are traditional or secular – except for the Yinon family, which became observant ten years ago. Prof. Amos Yinon, who runs the local “synagogue” – as well as the Internal and Infective Diseases Department in Shaar Zedek Medical Center – has lived in Kibbutz Kalia for many years, and organized the festive Torah installation ceremony.

“We established our synagogue about six years ago in the local school,” Prof. Yinon told Arutz-7, “and we borrowed two Torah scrolls from the Mitzpeh Yericho [a religious-Zionist Yesha community about 20 minutes away – ed.]. Over the past year we decided that the time had come for our own Torah scroll, and so we ordered one to be written in memory of my father-in-law, a mathematics professor in Holland.”

Though the kibbutz is not religious, “many of the members have strong ties with tradition. Every Friday night they recite Kiddush in the dining room, and Yom Kippur services are held every year with the help of friends from Mitzpeh Yericho. The dining room is kosher, and many religious people come to enjoy our vacation village.”

Yinon says that his return to observant Judaism was significantly connected with his work in the hospital: “The experiences that I had and watched in the framework of my work,” he said in an interview two years ago, “helped me realize that most healing is dependent upon the patient’s ability to rise above his biological parts… Even when I talk to my student interns about our ability to heal, I emphasize that most of our strength lies in our ability to bring the patient to connect with his spiritual side.”

He said that when he first began to wear a kippah (yarmulke) in public, thus showing his change of lifestyle, “there was some estrangement between us and the other members… But this pass over time, and now, as we don’t have small children for whom I have to worry about a religious school, I would not consider moving somewhere else. We can see Mt. Nevo from here, and we feel that we are living where our forefathers lived. The air is very clean, and my wife, who suffers from asthma, has no need to take medicines.”

No synagogue has yet been built in the kibbutz, and none is foreseen for the immediate future. As of now, Yinon and others wheel the portable Torah ark, tables, benches and prayerbooks into a school room every Friday for Sabbath services, and wheel them back out again on Saturday night.

The Sunday night ‘s festive event was very moving, Yinon said: “It was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem [sanctification of G-d’s Name]. Everyone danced and sang together – hareidim, Hassidim, knitted skullcaps [religious Zionist], and of course the Kibbutz members with no yarmulke. Everyone danced together with the Torah scroll which united all of us.”